QP’s Johnson glad he had a chance to come back home to New Jersey

Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace senior running back Torre Johnson.



By Jim Hague

Torre Johnson had spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school far away from his childhood home in East Orange.
Johnson attended Cairo High School in Georgia and played football there as a linebacker and wide receiver. But deep in Johnson’s heart, he knew he was a running back.
“I wasn’t happy there,” Johnson said. “Most of my family and friends were in New Jersey. I wasn’t getting the ball at all in Georgia. It wasn’t fun.”
But when Johnson’s mother decided that she was taking the family back to the Garden State, Torre wasn’t upset at all.
“I was kind of happy, because I knew I would go to a school where I could play,” Johnson said.
One of Johnson’s childhood friends, Malzim Lawrence, recommended Queen of Peace, where Lawrence was already a running back.
It was a perfect scenario for Johnson. Queen of Peace represented a good school with a chance to play football and a close friend along side.
Johnson underwent some growing pains when he first enrolled at QP.
“He was new to the school and the program,” QP head coach Steve Romano said. “It took him a little while for him to understand what we were about.”
So a year ago, Johnson was part of a Golden Griffins’ backfield with his friend, Lawrence.
However, before the 2011 season began, Johnson did what he had to do to become a full-time top-flight running back.
“He bought into the weight room and put on 25 pounds of muscle,” Romano said. “He improved his speed in the 40 (yard dash). He put in a lot of work and I just knew that the hard work was going to be the difference.”
“It was my senior year and I only had one shot,” Johnson said. “I wanted to step up and be a better player. Because I was new to the team last year, I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. But this year, it was my chance to get the ball more. Last year, I was more of a defensive player. This year, I worked hard to get the ball.”
Even if it meant leapfrogging over his friend Lawrence in the process.
“I hated to do it that way, but I had to do what I did,” Johnson said.
So when the 2011 season began, Torre Johnson was the Golden Griffins’ main go-to running back. He didn’t fail in his debut, collecting 243 yards and four touchdowns in the Griffins’ season opener against Park Ridge. He also had another game where he collected 157 yards, but it was nothing compared to what he produced last week in a 32-18 win over Weehawken.
In that contest, Johnson motored for an astounding 352 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Johnson’s impressive performance set a new single-game rushing record at Queen of Peace.
For his efforts, Johnson has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Johnson’s heroics have enabled the Golden Griffins to bounce back after an 0-3 start. They now own a 3-3 record and have put themselves into contention for a possible NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 playoff berth. The Griffins need a win over either Mastery Charter of Pennsylvania this weekend or Elmwood Park next week to secure the playoff bid.
Johnson, who is ranked among the top 10 in rushing yardage in the entire state, is a major reason why the Griffins are now in the state playoff picture.
“He has the unique ability to see the hole and feels the presence of the hole,” Romano said. “He also has great breakaway speed. He sees the hole, hits the hole and he’s gone. And no doubt about it, he wants the ball and you have to like that.”
Johnson started the season as a two-way player, but since he’s shown so much talent on the offensive end, Johnson has been relieved from his duties with the defense.
“We need him solid in the backfield,” Romano said. “That’s why he’s only on one side now. When he’s healthy and able, he’s pretty darn good. He’s been a pleasant surprise. We hoped he could get 100 yards per game, but he’s done even better than that. I still think his best days are ahead of him. He’s one of the top kids I’ve ever coached. It’s nice to have a running back who can make big plays. Everyone loves a running back.”
Johnson is confident about the way he’s been playing.
“I feel I can score a touchdown every time I touch the ball,” said Johnson, who has scored 10 touchdowns this season. “That’s what I try to do.”
Johnson said he didn’t know how much yardage he compiled last week.
“I was told after the game and I was amazed it was that much,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know it was a school record. I just enjoy the privilege of owning the record. For me, it’s all about the competition. I want to compete. It’s kind of unbelievable that it was that much. The offensive line did a great job blocking.”
Johnson hopes that this is just a start for him.
“I hope I have bigger and better games in the future,” Johnson said.
He also hopes to be playing on the college level next year and believes that his school-record performance can lead to a chance to play in college.
“I’d be surprised if it didn’t,” Johnson said. “I’m not really surprised with how well I’ve done. I’ve been playing football since I was a little kid. It’s just my time, my chance. I take the ball and do what I do best.”
There is one thing Johnson is happy about. He’s glad to be away from the peaches, the pecans and the lush golf fairways in Georgia.
“I’m glad to be back up here,” Johnson said. “I’m back with my family and childhood friends. Everything is good now.”

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